Orange and Milford politicians struck a decisive victory when they passed changes to the state’s 8-30g statute governing affordable housing on June 7.
And then Gov. Dannel Malloy vetoed the proposed changes one month later, on July 7.
This law allows for diverse housing options for people all across the state. It’s designed to get towns and cities out of the housing business,” said Jeffrey Gordon, President of Codespoti & Associates P.C.
Orange First Selectman James Zeoli said, “It’s unfortunate that Gov. Malloy seems to think that a small change to balance use of the rule, not eliminate it, is not desirable.”
Orange has a proposed 8-30g project seeking approval from the town’s Plan and Zoning Commission. According to Jeffrey Gordon, President of Codespoti & Associates P.C., a proposal for 65-69 Marsh Hill Road is seeking approval under the affordable housing regulations.
Previously, the Plan and Zoning Commission had denied the application, citing that the apartment aspect of the mixed-use development was not appropriate for the zone. The proposal was reworked and re-presented at the July 18 commission meeting where it notes that it will be an 8-30g application. Eighteen of the 60 units proposed would be considered affordable housing.
Gordon said that if the application in it’s current state is denied, it is very likely the next step will be to go to court and get the commission’s decision reversed. He also noted that many people make the mistake of thinking of affordable housing as “Section 8” housing. According to the statute, to qualify for affordable housing under 8-30g, an applicant must make no more than 80 percent of the area median income. The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CFHA) lists Orange’s area as having a median income of $88,100, with $70,480 as the 80 percent qualifier.
In addition to the income levels, rents must be set at levels that would cost the resident no more than 30 percent of his or her income. At the 80 percent, that would mean a rent of $1,762 a month according to CFHA’s website.
“It’s affordable, it isn’t cheap,” said Gordon.
“This law allows for diverse housing options for people all across the state. It’s designed to get towns and cities out of the housing business,” Gordon said, noting that complaining about the 8-30g circumventing local ordinances and planning commissions misses the point about the statute.
“It’s meant to circumvent their decisions,” Gordon said.
The Milford and Orange delegations to the Connecticut General Assembly strongly supported the proposed changes to 8-30g and put out celebratory statements when the both chambers of the General Assembly passed the revisions in June. They put out far less enthusiastic statements following Malloy’s veto. The House of Representatives voted 116 to 33 for the revisions and the State Senate came in at 30 to 6.
“People in Milford and across Connecticut have been calling for common-sense reforms to our affordable housing statutes, and I am deeply disappointed that Governor Malloy has chosen to ignore them,” said Senator Slossberg in a statement. “The Governor’s veto message shows a real lack of understanding of the specific workings of this statute and of the need for reform. Connecticut is the only state that allows private developers to site their developments wherever they choose. States that do not give this disproportionate power to housing developers have been much more successful than Connecticut in developing affordable housing.”
Rep. Pam Staneski said in her statement, “Towns like Milford are getting overrun with affordable housing applications. This legislation was a modest step towards affordable housing reform which hoped to offer towns an attainable goal of developing and
As of writing, the legislature had not scheduled a veto session where Malloy’s decision could be overridden. It is expected the legislature will take up an override vote given the wide margins by which the revisions initially passed.
Malloy issued a statement with his veto, stating that “every resident of Connecticut should have access to housing they can afford in the town where they work. So, too, should everyone be able to live affordably in the town that they choose, with access to good schools, safe neighborhoods, and basic services, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income,” Governor Malloy wrote in a veto message to the Secretary of the State. “However, for many lower-income residents who must work in areas of the state where the cost of housing is high, a long history of decisions and discriminatory policies has made securing that housing persistently difficult. Those decisions include the historical practice of redlining – denying mortgages to entire neighborhoods because of the residents’ race or ethnicity – and passing restrictive zoning rules that make it nearly impossible to build multifamily housing, or that require home lots to be so large that only the wealthy can buy them. These kinds of rules effectively price people of limited means who work in such towns out of the market.”
While Malloy seeks to protect affordable housing access, communities like Milford struggle to meet the stipulations of the 8-30g statute that would allow them to call a moratorium on further developments. The 8-30g statute is supposed to only apply to communities where less than 10 percent of the dwelling unites are classified as affordable. According to a release from Milford Mayor Ben Blake, his city well-exceeds that number at more than 32 percent of the households at low or moderate-income. However, according to Blake, because most properties in the city were built before 1990, Milford still doesn’t qualify for a moratorium.
“Yet even after the great lengths to which Milford has gone to create housing for young professionals, working families, and our senior population, we still haven’t reached the artificial thresholds and don’t make the arbitrary quota set by people in Hartford nearly thirty years ago. Our ability to adopt and live by sound planning principles and our right to local, self-determination has been hijacked. This law is misguided and must be rewritten,” said Blake in his statement.
*Editor’s Note: Due to publication deadlines, this edition of The Orange Times had to be sent to press before the Tuesday, July 18, meeting of the Orange Plan and Zoning Commission. A follow up of the meeting was posted online.